Fruit trees, vegetables, and medical and sacred plants that once grew in the gardens of Pompeii went on show to the public on Tuesday.
The plants have been grown in an 800-square-metre botanical garden at the archaeological site that has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and is opened to visitors each spring.
An interdisciplinary team, including archaeologists, biologists, botanists and historians, has spent years excavating the remains of the site, identifying exactly which plants were grown where.
The biologist leading the team, Anna Maria Ciarallo, said that they made use of a variety of sources to discover what green-fingered Pompeians planted before the town was destroyed by ash and cinder from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Extensive analysis of Roman texts showed that Pompeii was especially famous for its vines, onions and cabbages, while wall paintings on the houses also revealed details about favourite plants.
However, since the murals sometimes took their inspiration from far-off royal courts, Ciarallo said they could not always be trusted to give an accurate picture of the Pompeian garden.
''In the frescoes we can find species that could not have been part of the local flora, such as the orange tree, the mango, the annona or the thuja from Africa,'' Ciarallo explained.
''The determining factor in understanding the local plant life is therefore the analysis of plant remains that have survived to this day, like wood, pollen, seeds and fruits, from which we have been able to create a long list of species,'' she said.
Growing food that could be preserved was extremely important to the inhabitants of Pompeii, and hard-shelled nut trees such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts were common because of the long shelf-life of their fruit.
Fig and olive trees, whose fruits could be dried out and preserved, were also fundamental to the Pompeian kitchen and can be found in the garden alongside apple, quince and pear trees.
Among the vegetables are pulses and cereals such as chickpeas, lentils, peas and broad beans, which were cooked in soups.
Basil and marjoram are included in a range of herbs used both in food preparation and for medicinal purposes.
Also growing here are garlic, which can help lower high blood pressure, thyme, which has antiseptic properties, and rue, which can help induce abortion.
Pompeii's marshy soil made it particularly well-suited to riverside trees such as ash, whose flexible wood was used to make bed staves, willow, used for baskets, and poplar.
Different kinds of cane were also grown for a variety of purposes: to make wicker furniture, to strain ricotta, to act as frames for other plants, to make musical instruments and to make screens to divide rooms in houses, according to Ciarallo.
The garden, which is divided into different sections signposted in Italian and English, will be open to the general public until June 2.
Products and seeds from the garden will meanwhile be on sale at the renovated herbalist's store at the site.
This is the second garden developed by Ciarallo's team in the remains of Pompeii.
Five years ago the team recreated a 4,000 square-meter garden attached to the city's Casa del Profumiere (Perfumers' House).
This led to the sale of the balms, essences and cosmetics in the adjoining building.
Violet, rose, lily, basil, dill, rue, thyme, anise, oregano and lemon balm were just some of the plants cultivated in the garden, although the perfumer living there probably also made use of more exotic, imported ingredients.
Ciarallo's team also uncovered several olive trees in the garden, which were used to produce oil in which herbs, spices and flowers were left to steep.
The finished product was kept in containers made of non-absorbent materials such as bronze and glass to slow down the otherwise rapid deterioration process.
The interdisciplinary group has also been behind a highly successful attempt to produce the world's first recreation of ancient Roman wine.
The project, now in its eighth year, uses grapes from the restored vineyard at the House of the Fountain.
The ruby-red, full-bodied wine was named after one of the buried city's most famous attractions, Villa dei Misteri (Villa of Mysteries).